Demanding UNICEF Action on Sexual Harassment and Abuse of Authority

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Demand Action: Sign a letter to UNICEF Senior Management demanding real changes and action on sexual harassment and abuse of authority.   

UNICEF staff, partners and supporters are coming together to demand that senior management takes action to effectively address recent and historical cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power towards members of staff.

Sign this letter which will be sent to our Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore, demanding that UNICEF live up to the ideals of human rights, protection, and integrity that it promotes around the world. Your information will not be shared, and you can choose to sign anonymously if preferred.

Since the latest sexual misconduct allegations have surfaced surrounding our Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF has fallen short of publicly condemning his actions and acknowledging their role in recruiting him.

We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg for UNICEF. Sexual harassment and abuse of authority are interlinked issues and many staff members – women and men – have suffered for too long in silence.

When it comes to sexual harassment and abuse, we know that many staff are afraid of the repercussions of speaking up and reporting through existing channels.  For an organisation with a mandate for upholding the rights of women and children – this is truly disgraceful.

We know that the issue is particularly prevalent in our country offices and emergency settings. We know that nationally-recruited and more junior staff face even bigger obstacles in reporting abuses of power, including sexual misconduct.  This is often due to the extreme hierarchical nature of the organisation's structure.  We know of cases where senior management has effectively silenced “difficult” individuals and sabotaged their careers.  

We also know that very few sexual harassment and abuse of authority cases are actually reported due to the unclear, un-supportive, lengthy and overly bureaucratic reporting procedures, along with shame and fear of repercussion.

A review of staff disciplinary actions from 2009-2016 did not reveal any action taken against staff members for sexual harassment or abuse. This, in addition to our slow, ineffective internal process is essentially silencing victims, robbing them of the justice they deserve.  For an organisation who is renowned for protecting women and children – this is truly shameful. 

We therefore demand:

  • Full enforcement of UNICEF’s zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. This includes accountability and action at the most senior levels of leadership, along with improved HR processes to speed up investigations and dismissals as necessary.  A “demotion,” “early retirement” or “special leave without pay” is no longer an expectable way of dealing with sexual abuse.  Nor is moving a senior staff member to another country office or organisation. 
  • Multiple reporting channels must be made available to survivors to be able to report misconduct, without fear of retribution. This must also include space for those victims who were unable to come forward for years and those that have now left the organisation. This includes the new anonymous reporting platform announced by the Executive Director, which must be made available to former staff.   
  • The statute of limitations on reporting must be eliminated. The current statute of limitations for reporting is 6 months is far too short. Elimination of this will allow survivors of historical abuse to receive the justice they deserve.
  • UNICEF must allocate resources to address sexual harassment and abuse of authority.  For example, hiring enough staff with appropriate expertise on addressing sexual harassment to provide timely support to investigation and provide safe and appropriate counselling and other support to survivors as necessary. Improved counselling services must also be made available to survivors.
  •  UNICEF must take public responsibility for recruiting Justin Forsyth with his history of misconduct. It must also take additional steps to carry out mandatory background checks to ensure such a mistake does not happen again.  

UNICEF staff are heartened by the recent steps announced by the Executive Director, but they must go further.  We want to see rapid and concrete action. 

Many of us have dedicated our lives to UNICEF, and made significant sacrifices to work here.  We deserve to be protected by the organisation that we serve and are asking staff, partners and supporters to come together and help us fight for real change.

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